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Using Personification to Boost Your PPC Ad's CTR

Noran El-Shinnawy
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ronald-mcdonaldWhen it comes to PPC ads, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, it's useful to look at what's already working in other channels and test to see if it would work for PPC ads as well. And usually it does!

A recent memo by Roy Williams got me thinking...

“Few techniques in communication are as powerful – or as often overlooked – as personification: ascribing human characteristics to inanimate objects. It turns dead corporate brands into living persons. Who are the Keebler Elves, the Jolly Green Giant, Mr. Clean and Ronald McDonald if not personifications of the brands they represent?

... [But] Personification is much bigger and more elegant than mere mascots and logos. When conceived in words, lively words, personification summons the imagination and triggers the emotions...

...We gaze longer at pictures that have people in them than at pictures that have no people. I believe the same is true of words. We pay more attention to words that tell us of people than to words that don’t.”

Personification works wonders in mass media advertising, sales letters, and poetry. But can it work in PPC Ads too?

Apparently it does. Consider the PPC ad test below:

1000-homes-waiting-ad

You’ll notice that the losing ad promises pretty much the same thing as the winning ad -- the ability to search through thousands of homes in a given area, with any searched on area being dynamically inserted into the ad. In fact, the losing ad actually promises more than the losing ad by telling the searcher that photos, prices, tours, and maps are available for each home.

So what does the winning ad have going for it that would produce a 52 percent increase in CTR?

Mostly personification.

Notice that the winning ad says that “1,000+ Homes Are Waiting for you in [location].” The homes have been personified, given the human characteristic of waiting. Nice!

But to be fair, that’s not ALL the winning ad does. It also bumps the inventory claim of “1000’s” into the headline. Of course, it does this at the sacrifice of keyword match-up, and decreased keyword match-up in the headline is usually associated with lower rather than higher performance. So that one is kind of a wash in my book.

Finally, the winning ad promises that the searcher will be able to look at and compare those 1000+ houses “for Free.” And that is a plus, as some listings charge for admittance.

But emphasizing "free" is an offer-dependent technique. So if you’re able to plug that in your ad, by all means test it. But not everyone can try that in their PPC ads. Moreover, "free" is no guarantee of increased performance either, because free can still feel risky.

So go ahead and test a more personified version of your PPC ads. And no matter how “un-personifiable” you think your product or service may be, just remember that in the example above, it was done for a bunch of bricks.


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